Know your Rig

Heading Off-Road? Here’s how regular visual inspections can save you headaches

Getting to know your rig, as in the tow vehicle and trailer, is always important but even more so when you’re full time on the road and heading off the beaten track and into remote areas.

During our three years on the road we have had more than our fair share of breakdowns, mishaps and mechanical damage requiring repairs.

Know how it looks

While some breakdowns simply can’t be predicted or picked up early, we have had incidences where we have picked up on damage and got it repaired in time to avoid more costly repairs and delays had they not been picked up early. And this is only because

I have taken the time to familiarise myself with our ute and caravan and spent a bit of time crawling under them just looking around and wiggling bits.

Now, you don’t need to be all mechanically minded; the point is to get a feel and an idea of what “normal” is so that if things start to get loose or start looking out of place you can pick up on it early and get it checked out by a professional.

…First, a modification 

Here is an example of how this has worked for us in the past. I needed new tyres for the caravan as I noticed they were wearing unevenly and were getting bald on the inside edge.

So when we pulled into a town with a caravan repair shop and a tyre shop I put the van in to have the suspension checked out and fixed so the new tyres would not wear unevenly.

At the same time, I decided to have the springs relocated to above the axle to give us more ground clearance as we tend to venture off the sealed roads a fair bit and clearance has been an issue for us in the past.

What’s that crack? 

After all the work was done we hit the road again and as typical for us it was straight onto unsealed roads. While crawling under the van for a regular check, I noticed that the shock mount brackets were pushed up and a slight crack was starting where the bracket was welded onto the chassis. Turns out that the old shocks were bottoming out as the van was now higher and the bump stops weren’t able to do their job.

As things go, we were hundreds of kilometres from where the work was done and hundreds more before the next major town. So, we stuck to the sealed roads and kept a close eye on the situation until we could have the problems rectified at the next convenient town.

Why it matters?

If I hadn’t seen this problem the crack would have eventually resulted in the whole shock mount ripping off the chassis and causing much more damage in the process.

Hopefully this will encourage you to get under and around your rig and familiarize yourself a bit with what’s what. You never know what you may pick up on.